Well, that didn’t take long.
A stylish WNBA vet with 12 years of experience on her resume (and two championship rings on her fingers) breezed into town and immediately shook things up. Cappie Pondexter was released by the LA Sparks on June 28 and signed by the Indiana Fever on July 1.
On July 3, she scored 12 points off the bench, grabbed 5 rebounds and snagged 1 steal in the Fever’s win over the defending champion Lynx — on the road, at Target Center, in Minneapolis.
Pondexter’s energy raised the temperature for her team, leading to a feverish performance from Natalie Achonwa, who scored a game-high 17 points, pulled down 9 boards and blocked the ball 3 times.
Achonwa and Pondexter were joined in double-digit scoring by Victoria Vivians, who added 13 points of her own and twice picked the furry pockets of the Lynx.
After the game, Indiana Fever Head Coach Pokey Chatman said Pondexter “has ice water in her veins when it comes to big moments.”
But it is smaller moments that lead to bigger ones, and Indy took care of business last night — namely, by avoiding early deficits that are are hard to overcome later, which has been their Achilles’ heel in losses all season. In fact, despite the game being tied up five times, with four lead changes, the Fever managed to close each quarter strong: winning the first, tying the second and winning the third and fourth.
With the victory, the Fever make it two wins on the season and set their sights on a run to .500 behind the energy and experience of Pondexter.
The two teams currently at .500 right now behind 8-8 records are the Dallas Wings (#7) and the Atlanta Dream (#8). Although the Fever remain last in the standings (and a full six wins behind Atlanta), only three teams separate the Fever from a playoff spot: New York Liberty, Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky.
If all things stay the same for those teams, Indy is likely to run over the Liberty and Sky, and avoid an 11th- or 12th-place finish. Whether they can get past the slick Aces, however, is another story entirely. But the Fever have outplayed many of their opponents all season, coming up short in the W-L columns due to shortcomings that now are showing signs of correction with Pondexter on the squad.
Although Rebekka Brunson scored 12 points and pulled down 13 boards for a double-double, the Lynx lost because the other Minnesota starters were limited to single-digit scoring: 9 points for Maya Moore, 8 points for Seimone Augustus, 9 points for Sylvia Fowles and 3 points for Lindsay Whalen.
Minnesota also turned the ball over 12 times (to Indiana’s 6) and made 9-of-15 free throws (to Indiana’s 13-of-18). With the loss, the Lynx’s seven-game win streak came to an end, but they remain in the middle of the pack in the standings, at #6.
Elsewhere in the WNBA ...
Storm (77) vs. Liberty (62)
With this win, Seattle surges to 13-5 in the standings — ahead of the 13-5 Phoenix Mercury (who did not play Tuesday). They got it down behind 21-point scoring from Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart and 13 points from Natasha Howard — all of which had been helped along by Sue Bird’s 11 assists.
A team-high 16 points from Bria Hartley was not enough to get New York the win. The Liberty are now 5-12 on the season and 11th in the standings.
Wings (108) vs. Sky (85)
The good news for Chicago moving forward is that Diamond DeShields, Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot showed they can coalesce into a solid Big Three. On Tuesday night, the concept translated into the following numbers: a team-high 20 points for DeShields, 18 for Quigley and 11 for Vandersloot. And even though Alaina Coates added another 10 points off the bench, it wasn’t enough to get past a Wings team competing with next-level ferocity.
By next-level, we mean Liz Cambage tallying a career-high 37 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for yet another double-double — her seventh of the season, making for the following jolly green (and blue) giant celebration:
Player of the Week candidates must now go through Cambage, if they dare. But, for Dallas, the victory was a team effort.
FINAL: The Wings beat the Sky 108-85 in Arlington!— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) July 4, 2018
- @ecambage: 37 PTS (career high)/10 REB
- @SkyDigg4: 20 PTS (18 3rd quarter points - career high)
- @AzuraStevens: 12 PTS
We're back on Thursday to take on the Indiana Fever! BE THERE. #RiseTogether pic.twitter.com/RzbVO9X1j9
Sun (73) vs. Sparks (72)
Sibling rivalry between the Ogwumike sisters took an ugly turn last night when — just kidding. But, after missing significant playing time in recent seasons due to injuries, Chiney seems out to remind the world that there is another superstar-level basketball goddess in the Ogwumike clan.
She made the game-winning shot ...
... and bested her sister in scoring: a game-high 21 points for Chiney, a team-high 20 points for Nneka. For context, Connecticut won this one without Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Williams.
With that, the Sun have won both meetings against the Sparks this season, guaranteeing them the season-series victory. To avoid an 0-3 sweep, the Sparks will need to find a way to slow Chiney down the teams’ final game of the regular season in Connecticut on August 18.
Next up ...
On this July 4th holiday, the ladies of the league have the day off from competition. But action resumes on Thursday with a stacked schedule of five games, including a primetime showdown between the Sparks and the Lynx on ESPN2 in primetime.